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On Thursday morning Axios Co-founder & CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a virtual event to discuss leadership and the new normal of work with Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, and projections on the future of the workplace with Axios business reporter, Erica Pandey.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield focused on the role that leaders serve while in a crisis as well as the need for businesses to remain adaptable in times of change.

  • On the job of leaders: "Leaders remind people what's important...the tactics might be new, but the big job is to remind people what's important. Remind people what the purpose is. Remind people what the objectives are. Remind people about roles and responsibilities. It's really getting people to believe in something."
  • On prioritizing agility: "I think we're in a more dynamic environment...[At Slack] we talk about how increasing technological change can cause changes in consumer behavior...The fundamental challenge to any organization like companies, governments, NGOs, academic institutions is the creation of a kind of agility that allows them to be responsive to these changing conditions."

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg discussed leadership, and how prioritizing employees' needs is vital to the staggered return to the workplace.

  • How Verizon has responded to the crisis: "Since the start of the pandemic, we decided to keep America connected. That means that any residential customer, or small and medium business, that have problems with paying due to COVID-19 are not being disconnected. We are not charging them late fees...we will continue to do that to the end of this quarter."
  • On whether people will return to office spaces by the end of the year: "Ultimately, we're going to have a staggered way of coming back to work...We as an employer will do everything to see that we are making the [environment] safe for our employees to come back to the office...I think in 2021, we're going to see a new normal."

Axios business reporter Erica Pandey unpacked the necessity of remote work in a pandemic and the potential changes it will yield as things gradually reopen.

  • On the rapid shift to remote work during the pandemic: "Remote work has been a buzzword for a really long time. But before the pandemic, only about 4% of Americans were working remotely full time. And now if you're looking at the top 20% of earners, which is most white-collar office jobs, it's closer to 80% per a new Brookings [Institution] report."
  • On its lasting impact on work-life: "This is going to be difficult for workers where parents are taking care of relatives at home. But for some people, this is going to be a welcome change they're going to want. It's gonna be pretty sticky when this is all over and people are going to go to their managers and say, you know, 'I really like that. Can we keep doing that more?'"

Thank you Slack for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 5, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: Small business recovery during the pandemic

On Wednesday August 5, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and "Axios Today" host Niala Boodhoo hosted the last of a six-event series on how small businesses have pivoted during the coronavirus outbreak, featuring Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), owner of The Curvy Bride Michelle Files and Satori Yoga studio owner Andrea Stern.

Sen. Lankford discussed the federal government's response to the pandemic, financial support for small businesses, and the importance of NGOs as economic safety nets within communities.

  • On the effectiveness of PPP loans: "The Paycheck Protection Program has had some problems, but overwhelmingly it's been very, very successful. Paycheck Protection Program was designed to keep small businesses and not-for-profits running so their people didn't have to end up on unemployment assistance...and it has done that."
  • How the coronavirus has changed the economies of small towns: A lot of small towns in Oklahoma have had their highest tax revenue they've ever had in the history of their towns this year...They're used to those folks in small towns driving to big cities to shop. But they're not. They're staying at home. They're shopping online."

Michelle Files and Andrea Stern highlighted the unique challenges of running a small business during the pandemic and how their respective businesses have pivoted to digital tools in these changing times.

  • Michelle Files on adapting her brick-and-mortar business to a virtual world: "Mobile appointments...really took off. People loved that they were still able to shop from the comfort of their own home. I would just bring the dresses to them and safely be on a Zoom call from my car with any questions that they would have."
  • Andrea Stern on transitioning to live, online yoga classes: "We decided that livestream was the best way to go...one of the nice parts about livestream is that [instructors] actually have people in front of them. You can get feedback from the students. It was just a matter of getting everyone up to speed on the technology."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council Karen Kerrigan, who discussed trends in how small businesses have adjusted to the new economy.

  • "[Small businesses] are massively moving to technology platforms. 51% said that they've upped their use of social media in order to engage with customers and find new customers. So they really embrace technology at this very critical time, which is helping them to survive the COVID-19 economy."

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."